Every week as @SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9 pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with marketing expert Whitney Keyes @WhitneyKeyes, She is author of PROPEL: Five ways to Amp up your Marketing and Accelerate Business (2012, Career Press)
She has 20 years in the trenches as a senior manager at Microsoft, strategic advisor for American Express, and consultant to thousands of businesses around the world. She started her business career managing her family’s retail store. Whitney also serves as a professor of Global Reputation Management at Seattle University. For more information www.WhitneyKeyes.com
SmallBizLady: What are the 5 marketing mistakes small business owners make?
Whitney Keyes: Over the years, I’ve seen several small businesses make many costly mistakes when it comes to their marketing and that’s exactly why I wrote my book. To help people avoid feeling frustrated and wasting valuable time, budget and resources, here are my top five marketing mistakes to watch out for:
- OVERCONFIDENT: With a nicely designed logo, stack of spiffy business cards in hand and a website up, some business owners make the mistake of thinking their marketing is all done. Marketing works best when it’s an ongoing part of your business and constantly integrated into everything you do.
- OVERWHELMED: There are a multitude of marketing options to choose from today, from Facebook and e-newsletters to Pinterest and YouTube videos. But this endless number of choices can leave business owners paralyzed and unable to do anything.
- OVER DO IT: Other people think they need to be doing everything under the sun to promote their business. They make the mistake of trying to master every cool marketing tool their friends are buzzing about, randomly revamping their website, tweeting, holding one event after another, creating online contests and the list goes on. Trying to do too much, they end up spread too thin.
- OBSESSED: Another mistake people make is putting all of their eggs into one marketing basket. Social media is at the top of the obsession list right now. What’s most important is finding the right combination of techniques to help you effectively connect to your clients. Remember, it’s not about what you “want” to do; it’s about what marketing works for you and your customers.
- IMPATIENT: We live in a culture based on instant gratification. But marketing is an unpredictable and ongoing game. You never know exactly what will work and precisely when you’ll see the results. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a business owner say, “I spent hours writing my blog article and not one person commented on it.” Giving up too soon in the marketing process is a huge mistake. Stay the course, tweak along the way and watch your marketing starts to grow your business.
SmallBizLady: How do you find your customer sweet spot: aka your target market, segment and niche?
Whitney Keyes: Make sure you don’t go for too big of a slice of your customer pie. By that I mean, if you live in Boulder, CO, and hand-make decorative leashes for dogs out of recycled materials, don’t try to promote your products to all of the dog owners of the world. Slice and dice that pie into smaller, niche-focused customer segments. For example: Start with owners of small dogs who care about the environment and shop at local stores like Boulder’s Only Natural Pet Store.
SmallBizLady: How can you maximize your time as a small business owner?
Whitney Keyes: You can get a lot done in a short amount of time. Use your action plan, and start with just 15 minutes of focused, maximized work–it can pay off in a big way.
SmallBizLady: How should a small business owner repackage their knowledge about their business?
Whitney Keyes: If you have built up a wealth of information about your product or service, use it to your advantage in as many ways possible. This works extremely well for service based businesses. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel when it comes to marketing–there are many times when you should reuse what information you already have, just in different methods and through different platforms.
SmallBizLady: How you do define a lasting trend and why do you say small business owners should jump on lasting trends?
Whitney Keyes: Most trends come and go, but some stay the course and manage to shift our thinking. For instance, “sustainability” has grown from a trendy topic to a mindset that is here to stay, and those who jumped on it early are now seen as authorities on the topic.
SmallBizLady: Many small businesses are always short-handed. Do you suggest they create an internship program?
Whitney Keyes: Yes, interns are great. Students are desperate to add real world experience to their resume. You may not have to pay them much, but you do need to create a compelling work opportunity. An ideal internship program will help your organization and the student.
SmallBizLady: How can small business owners leverage the people around them?
Whitney Keyes: Your employees are the most valuable asset in your business. Create opportunities for your employees to have fun and truly support the mission of the company. If you have a travel-based company, send employees on customer-facing trips. This authentic form of relationship-based marketing is key to success.
SmallBizLady: How can small business owners get more out of social media?
Whitney Keyes: Every minute you step away for marketing is a minute you could be focusing on making your product better. Social media is a quick and easy way to connect with your audience yet it doesn’t require a lot of time and energy. To be successful with your tweets and posts, ensure your audiences feels the connection both ways– create interactive polls and surveys to engage them in your brand.
SmallBizLady: How can small business owners use their personal strengths more effectively in their small business?
Whitney Keyes: You can’t always do the things you want, especially when you’re in startup mode in your business or facing crunch time on a big project. But, as soon as possible, start incorporating your unique passions and strengths into your marketing. This is one of the easiest and most pleasurable ways to move your business forward. For example, if you’re an introvert, you might focus on writing Facebook posts. An extrovert might benefit from delivering an in-person workshop to potential customers.
SmallBizLady: How can a small business owner make their marketing efforts more effective?
Whitney Keyes: Integrate as much as possible. If you write a blog post, can you use that content on your Facebook page? If you design a flyer, can you incorporate some messaging into your e-newsletter? Seamless, cohesive marketing is fast and effective and essential to being more successful and growing your business.
SmallBizLady: How can you turn your satisfied customers into a salesforce for your small business?
Whitney Keyes: Work your testimonials: Don’t keep your positive feedback in a folder in your inbox. Take those supportive, appreciative words and use them somewhere–anywhere. Share it on your website, LinkedIn, e-newsletter, tweet it, or post on Facebook.
Recycle your tools: From flyers to slides presentations, effective marketing often involves a variety of communication tools. There’s no reason you can’t repurpose the ones that work well or revamp the ones that aren’t working.
SmallBizLady: How can you turn your marketing plan into a real action plan?
Whitney Keyes: The best way to convert creative ideas into results is start small. Break your marketing projects down into one piece at a time that you can focus on and develop a process that works for you. Some people spend 15 minutes a day and others spend a day a week. Do what works best for you to maximize your time and stretch your budget and other resources.
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9pm ET follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter. Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/S797e
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Melinda F. Emerson, known to many as SmallBizLady is America’s #1 small business expert. As CEO of Quintessence Multimedia, Melinda educates entrepreneurs and Fortune 500 companies on subjects including small business start-up, business development and social media marketing to fulfill her mission to end small business failure. She writes a weekly column on social media for The New York Times. Forbes Magazine named her #1 woman for entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter. She hosts #SmallBizChat Wednesdays on Twitter 8-9pm ET for emerging entrepreneurs. She also publishes a resource blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com. Melinda is also the bestselling author of Become Your Own Boss in 12 months; A Month-by-Month Guide to a Business That Works.